Rubbing these Paris statues apparently brings you good luck!

Slow Paris

I have often scratched my head pondering why people rub statues. That thing where people actually physically rub a specific part of a statue or a sculpture, thanks to some famous legend or myth associated with it.

Some famous rub-worthy statues include: the statue of Juliet in Verona, whose bosoms have been rubbed by millions of tourists in the pursuit of love. Then there’s the statue of Kiskiralylany or the Little Princess in Budapest whose knees are touched by passing visitors for good luck etc. The list could go on and on. Or the classic Laughing Buddha statues. Rubbing the belly of one is supposed to bring you luck and prosperity.

Indeed, for those not driven by religious or spiritual fervour, “For good luck!” is often the general answer as to why rub statues at all.

Another, perhaps a more cynical explanation, might be our enduring fixations on good stories. Like it or not, most of us would follow anyone and anything with a convincing pitch and a killer story hook. Plus bonus believability points if a sizeable number of other people believe it.

What’s with the penchant for rubbing statues?

Statues have always been infused with magical, religious and anthropomorphic meanings. The Greeks used to think certain statues could serve as repositories for divine power and magic. And probably rubbing statues for luck, could be viewed as just a modern iteration of these old beliefs. 

It isn’t just that you can rub any part of the statue. There is often a specific body part associated with the rubbing mythos. Sometimes its a nose, other times, the snout of a pig or even the innocent sword of a fighter.

Human beings have a propensity of wanting to touch, kiss, caress and sometimes even preserve or cannibalise our Gods and magical and religious figures. No wonder that a lot of statue-rubbing mythos are built around talismanic body-parts.

So well-spread is the practice that there are many a statues that have been almost destroyed, assaulted or needed to have barriers put around them, to be saved from the onslaught of statue rubbers.

A Paris statue surrounded by blooming roses
A statue surrounded by blooming roses at Jardin des Plantes, Paris

Going back to the idea of ‘luck,’ in the context of statue rubbing, the perks can encompass so many things. These run the gamut from virality, love, fertility, peace, money and what have you. For those who are seriously concerned about boosting their chances in life, it can be a serious business. I have heard of whole travel itineraries planned around lucky statues. Or should we call them pilgrimages?

For others, rubbing statues might just be a fun thing to do. Or some claim to do it ironically. Plus, it’s got zero-stakes. Worst case scenario, you do something fun on a holiday while the best-case scenario is that the legends are true and you might just get your heart’s desire. 

Paris statues that may (or may not) bring your luck or love

Much like the places I have mentioned above, Paris too has its share of statues which have been infused with mythic powers. If you believe in the arcane myth of rubbing statues for luck, here are three Parisian statues you can visit!

These Paris landmarks are also good examples of the combination of myth-making and story-telling in building modern legends. Also they serve as texts to observe our cultural fixation on body-parts of statues as sources of good luck, virility, intelligence or whatever. 

Statue of Victor Noir, Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, Paris

At first glance, the grave of Victor Noir in Cimetiére de Pére-Lachaise is hardly noteworthy. Amidst the tree lined avenue of this Parisian cemetery, there are hundreds of graves adorned with exquisite architecture and sometimes, audacious sculptures. Many great and famous French and global personalities have been buried here, including Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde.

However, a closer inspection of the grave of Victor Noir would show a man’s statue tarnished at its mouth and crotch. Yes, the result of generations of statue rubbers doing their thing.

Grave of Victor Noir
The grave of Victor Noir

Legend has it that kissing the statue of Noir or rubbing its crotch would lead to finding true love within a year. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any statistics to confirm or deny this.

Victor Noir was a French gentleman who lived in Paris. Not much is known about his life, except that he was killed in a duel in 1870. While alive, he was really not known for any Casanova-like exploits or even for being a fulfilling lover to anyone. Yet, in death, his tomb and his statue atop his grave are now associated with love and sex.

Address: Cimetière Père Lachaise, 16 rue du repos, 92ème division, Avenue Transversale 2, 75020 Paris

Le Bust de Dalida 

This statue is in in the heart of Montmartre, which technically, is a village in itself. It is one of the most photographed places in the world, and it is easy to see why. Each turn on the road, each building, even the commercial establishment can be a postcard photo in its own right.

It was here in the bohemian streets of Montmartre that Dalida lived from 1962 until her death in 1987. She was one of the most popular French singers of her time and still remains a French cultural icon. After her death, in a quaint corner of Montmartre, the city of Paris named a square after the singer. Calling it Place Dalida, they also erected a bronze bust in honour of Dalida.

A slew of fans soon began visiting her statue to pay their homage to this great artist. It’s unclear when and why the ‘tradition’ of rubbing the bust of Dalida’s statue started. Once again, the visible tarnish on the statue indicates the presence of the statue rubbers.

The bust of Dalida graces one Place Dalida prettiest squares in Paris

It is quiet unclear to me what exact purpose rubbing the bust of Dalida is supposed to serve. Fame? Vocal prowess? Beauty? If you know why, please let me know!

Even if you are not a statue rubber yourself, I highly suggest you to visit this square. It opens up to Rue de l’Abreuvoir, which in my opinion is one of the prettiest streets in Paris. At the end of this street is a cluster of gorgeous buildings including La Maison Rose, with its iconic pink facade. Besides being a popular social media photo spot, it is now a cute restaurant.

Address: Place Dalida, Rue de l’Abreuvoir, 75018 Paris

Statue of Michel de Montaigne, University of Sorbonne, Paris

The next Paris statue we have on this list is located in another extremely gorgeous part of Paris, St Germain des Pres. Statue of Michel de Montaigne has been erected facing the street in front of the prestigious University of Sorbonne. Seated atop a comfy chair, with one leg folded atop the other, Montaigne looks deep in thought.

This once was the neighbourhood for the learned. It has some of the oldest and most prestigious education institutions in the world. In fact, the colloquial name of this neighbourhood, Quartier Latin, derives from this earlier era when students and teachers in this neighbourhood used to speak Latin, which used to be the language of the elite. St Germain des Pres still has many of France’s best schools, including La Sorbonne.

A Parisian cyclist riding past Statue of Michel de Montaigne
Statue of Michel de Montaigne with one shiny foot

Legend has it that rubbing the statue of Michel de Montaigne, can be particularly useful for students. Rubbing it’s foot is supposed to bestow wisdom and good luck to be able to cope with university exams. (Incidentally, it is not unheard of to have similar legends of statue rubbing when it comes to other universities.)

Montaigne himself was one of the most important philosophers to emerge during the French Renaissance. His literary expositions have covered topics as diverse as education, politics, and virtue to poetry, death, and food.

Address: 56 Rue des Écoles, 75005 Paris

So there have you. A list of Parisian statues that no one probably asked for, but I made anyway. Even if you don’t believe in statues being infused with powers, hope this list is still of some use to you. I think it can be an excellent excuse to discover three very different but equally interesting neighbourhoods of Paris.

Leave a Comment